The Pittsburgh Steelers took on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, and what would ultimately be their last game of the 2016-17 season; the Patriots were too much to handle on this occasion, beating the Steelers by a score of 36-17.
The Patriots kicked their way to an early lead, as a 6 play, 62 yard drive all through the air was capped off by a Stephen Gostkowski 31 yard field goal. A decisive play in this drive was Julian Edelman’s 41 yard reception- leaking out, he shed off an Artie Burns tackle and galloped down the field. The early lead was 3-0 Pats.
It would be the Patriots who would follow that up with a trip to the endzone, as an 11 play, 80 yard drive was capped by a 16 yard Chris Hogan touchdown reception, who was found wide open at the back of the endzone thanks to a break in coverage. The lead grew to 10-0.
The Steelers’ offense would finally show some life. This would, however, be without Le’Veon Bell– an early 1st quarter groin injury would limit him, ultimately knocking him out of the contest. Ben Roethlisberger would drive down the field, stringing together a 13 play, 74 yard drive capped off by a 5 yard DeAngelo Williams touchdown scamper. The lead would shrink, as the score became 10-6 after a missed extra point attempt by Chris Boswell.
The Patriots would add a second touchdown, this time with a 9 play, 82 yard drive that was mostly through the air. This time, it was Mike Mitchell who bit on the flee-flicker, allowing Hogan to get behind the last line of defense on a deep corner of 34 yards, walking into the endzone. The lead grew to 17-6.
Ben Roethlisberger and company would add one final field goal before half, which unfortunately should have been 7 points. After Jesse James was stopped short of the goalline, the Steelers offensive line was incapable of pushing the defensive line backwards, as a 1st and goal on the inch yard line resulted in a field goal attempt. Boswell would nail his 23 yard attempt, making the game 17-9 going into halftime.
The Steelers had 12 first downs, went 5-8 on 3rd downs, and had 180 total yards of offense- but it was clear they were missing Le’Veon Bell. The Patriots also had 12 first downs, went 6-8 on 3rd downs, and had 212 total yards of offense.
The second half was another dose of the same first half medicine. The Patriots got off to a bang, converting their first offensive possession with 3 points, capping a 9 play, 40 yard drive; their second offensive possession resulted in 7, via an 8 play, 89 yard drive and a 1 yard LeGarette Blount touchdown run. Just like that, the Pats jumped out to what looked like an insurmountable lead of 27-9.
The Patriots wouldn’t stop there. After an Eli Rogers catch-and-fumble, Tom Brady and company would once more carve the cover-2 defense for paydirt. In a quick 4 plays, Brady found Edelman for a 10 yard score, for his last touchdown toss of the day. As the lead grew to 33-9, the fate of the Steelers was sealed.
Before the game’s end, the Pats would tack on one more Gostkowski field goal, and the Steelers would find the endzone to make the final score 36-17. This was a back-breaker for the Steelers, as it was clear they were a step behind Josh McDaniels all evening long.
The Steelers offense also sputtered once Bell left the game, finding little if any success in the air, as well as on the ground. Ben ended the day with 314 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Brady carved up the zone-based defense with 384 yards and 3 scores. The Steelers’ 9 game winning streak came to an end, and now head into the offseason